Saturday, December 15, 2012
Tolkien was a true literary genius, methodically and majestically crafting his creation of middle earth and its inhabitants, perfectly combining fantasy and allegory shaped by his own deeply personal experiences of tragedy and heroism. No one could have better captured that stunning vision than Jackson, who answers his extraordinary interpretation of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy with a prequel of the same scope, sweep, and quality. Not only is Jackson able to bring this classic tale to life, but he found away to extend it into another Trilogy, a feat, I must admit I was first highly skeptical about. That skepticism, was quickly eliminated. As in the first three, the audience is immersed in Tolkein's world; surrounded by breath taking scenery and landscapes, entranced by his myriad of characters, and wholly engrossed by yet another story of the truest definitions of heroics and adventure. This is homage in its perfect form. Ian McKellen reprises the endearing role of Gandalf, a character you can tell he utterly enjoys. Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo Baggins. Richard Armitage plays the beleaguered dwarf prince with unbelievable energy and passion. In fact, the entire dwarf cast works fluidly together with so much authenticity and comradery you forget your watching a movie. Look for the return of many favorite characters and a exceedingly cool, seamlessly interwoven sub plot foreshadowing Sauron's return to power. I am truly looking forward to the evolution of this retelling. The battle sequences are cinematic magic, and the quick and sharp instances of wit hit their mark with more potency and accuracy than Legolas' bow (who will also make a future appearance). Jackson takes many liberties with the story and expounds upon it with consummate flair, but it only adds to the wonder rather than under or over whelm it. A rare prequel that equals, even surpasses in some instances, the originals. 5 out of 5 Kernels: a fitting tribute to a man who put his heart and soul into his novels and became an inspiration for generations past, present, and future.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Rarely is a third installment in a series able to capture the quality or potency of its predecessors and this film is no exception. The first law of the cinematic physical universe any sequel must obey is continuity of story. This conclusion to the franchise altogether violates that, and the plot itself has more holes in it than a Charlie Sheen alibi. Add in the lack of humor, charisma, and uniqueness that the first film was riddled with and the subsequent attempted, and this misstep goes down in the record books as just another Hollywood money grab. The key to these films was the chemistry between Jones and Smith, so what does the brainiacs who developed this story do, remove that element and throw in Brolin, who has all the charm and charisma of a bowl of cold oatmeal. Smith is overtly emotional, appearing as if he is going to burst into tears with every sentimental moment fail and Brolin tries so hard to imitate Jone's character that it comes off as just that, a bad karaoke like copy. Missing is all the quirky characters of the past as Sonnenfeld tries to create a darker, more elaborate production that just doesn't work with the spirit and style of what he originally created. The first was quirky and cool, the following a haphazard attempt to rekindle the comradery and witty banter of the first, and the closure is just not funny, unrelatable, and downright shoddy science fiction. Smith and Jones should both know better. I bet they both wished they could see into the future to have avoided this disappointment. 0 out of 5 Kernels: a time travel tale that runs over time with a storyline that runs out of time all at the same time.
Monday, December 3, 2012
The director of Wanted, Timur Bekmambetov, brings this novel to the silver screen in one of the most peculiar efforts in mixing historical fact with outlandish fiction that I have ever witnessed. Slow to start, clunky in the middle, but provides a fairly impressive pay out at the end, this odd tale of the greatest president who ever lived beginning his young life as a slayer of the undead is both difficult to comprehend and yet somewhat engaging. The special effects are so specialized, and over the top they look more like a high tech video game more than an enhancement to the film with considerable over use of the Slo Mo cam. The overall acting and interaction between characters feels two dimensional and at some points, stale. Even the rivalry between honest Abe and the lead vamp Adam never truly makes a connection with the audience. The love story between Lincoln and Mary Todd fares even worse. Benjamin Walker, looks and sounds like Lincoln, but that authenticity is over whelmed by under whelming performances by him and his fellow cast mates. Visually stunning, to say the least, but that can't carry a film, especially one with such story weight. The plot is intricately woven, but you need talent to bring that story to life, make it seem real, and, unfortunately, that never happens. The conclusion is impressive but predictable, an indication of where most of the movie's budget went. Ultra violent and bloody, sometimes to ridiculous levels. Most troubling is the way this feature characterizes the fight against the atrocity of slavery in such a comic book style. 1 out of 5 Kernels: a film that is difficult to digest, overtly laden with effects, and the only genuinely scary aspect of the undead in this feature, was their acting.
This tongue and cheek take on the inventive, eccentric, and over the top 70's TV serial attempts to do too much with far too little time. Borrowing much from the original, Burton still crafts it with his own sense of Avant-garde style and range. The down side, the film never actually defines itself, always falling between a slick and stylish reboot and joke of itself. His attempt to squeeze years of storyline from the vamp classic into a 113 minute silver screen adaptation ends up diluting key elements of the melodrama, transforming into a campy and sometimes silly and choppy retelling. The upside, Depp's performance is outstanding; as his adaptation of the brooding Barnabas Collins again defines why he is the best character of modern time. He owns every persona, good and lousy and creates, in this movie, one definitive hip and romantic, Nosferatu style blood sucker. However, the rest of the cast earns a B- at best. Even Mortez, who has an impressive resume of stellar performances, is lackluster. The dialogue and chemistry between players is not inimical or impressive either. The love story has no authenticity or emotion. Burton's recapturing of the 70's is, for what it is worth. The comedy is a bit stale for the most part with only a few laugh out loud moments. Don't expect any horror or suspense unless you find the Haunted Mansion at Disneyworld terrifying. In the end, what you do get is Burton doing what Burton does best, making films that are undoubtedly his own, exuberant costuming, impressive set work, and fantastic glimpses into his own demented view of reality. 2 out of 5 Kernels: I am thoroughly convinced that the Twilight Saga has continually besmirched the good name of the nocturnal legend, this is yet one more example of that after effect.